UofT Snapshots: Fourth Year and the Future

I am in my final year of undergrad and scheduled to graduate this June (by some terrible twist of fate, I graduate on the date of my birthday thereby having to spend my 22nd year of life in CON HALL). These past four years have been spent strolling around King’s College Circle, cramming at Robarts during unspeakable hours, and attending every puppy therapy event U of T has to offer. The fact that I may not be coming back next year has only recently hit me. As much as I tried to prepare for (see also: dread) the future, it actually did not occur to me that I’d soon be done my Bachelor’s. It’s a bittersweet feeling.

I embarked on a HONY-esque quest across campus to hunt down fellow fourth-years and ask them about their plans. Are you graduating? Taking a fifth year? Taking some time off? What have you learned here? What’s been a memorable U of T experience? Please share intimate details of your life with this random, unnaturally peppy stranger!

From my mini adventure I have concluded that 1) Apparently no upper years go to school because it proved quite difficult trying to find fourth years on campus and 2) Apparently all upper years are in the same boat of worry, anticipation, and excitement for their futures. So fear not, fourth year friends! Here are just some of the lovely students that attend our school, starting with the loveliest of all (me):

Nancy, Neuroscience:


I’m graduating this year! I want to do an MSc in neuroscience research. I’m also looking into professional programs in public policy and global health. The biggest takeaways from my time here is to go after what you want, enjoy yourself, and that the best person to compete with is yourself. I’m super grateful for all the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made!

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Sports and Recreation at UofT: A Second Look

Like most U of T students, I’m proud to be one. People like to call us pretentious and I like to argue there’s a big difference between being pretentious and being justifiably proud. We boast top 20 spots on lists of the world’s best universities and I’m “sorry I’m not sorry” that gives me the warm fuzzies.

While we excel as an institution overall, according to UniversityHub.ca (contributor to the Huffington Post), our sports and recreation programs are less well known.

Clearly something’s wrong here. We have a wealth of sport and recreational facilities, services, activities — there’s a lot going on here! We have FOUR athletic centres (if you count Varsity Centre), FOURTY-FOUR men’s and women’s varsity teams, the ONLY Olympic-sized pool in the city, a wide variety of registered and free classes, drop-in recreation, a FANTASTIC, SUPER-AFFORDABLE sports clinic open to students, more playing fields than I’m aware of and SO, SO MUCH MORE.

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Clubs to Get You Moving in 2016

Welcome back! I hope everyone’s well on their way to settling into a new semester. I can’t say I started it particularly enthusiastically; however, I feel I’m very much back in the groove. I start a circus silks class at the Athletic Centre soon (can’t wait to report back!) and Jiu Jitsu officially resumed today. I’ve dedicated this term to myself and my well-being above all else. I’ll let you know how that goes. So far… pretty good.

Tuesday was the annual winter Clubs and Summer Job Fair hosted by the UTSU at the Varsity Centre. I’ve never missed it — and for good reason. The fair isn’t a particularly popular event, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to chat with people (club executives and employers). It’s a very different environment compared to the fall Clubs Day at Hart House Circle. Even if you’ve never been, you must know what I mean…

How it looks... Source: UTSU Facebook Page

How it looks…
Source: UTSU Facebook Page

How it feels... (Also: name that movie!) Source: blogs.disney.com

How it feels…
(Also: name that movie!)
Source: blogs.disney.com

I seized the opportunity presented by the lack of stampede to interview a couple of sports/athletics-related clubs that were represented at the fair today. Without further ado…

The University of Toronto Ski & Snowboard Club (UTSSC)


UTSSC offers affordable ski and snowboard trips for students. The club welcomes skiers and boarders of all skill levels. Never tried your hand at either of these winter sports? No problem! Absolute beginners are 100 per cent welcome, and the club offers free lessons over the course of their first two weeks.

One club executive I spoke to explained that a large part of their membership consists of international students hitting the slopes for the first time (no doubt to find something to redeem this dreadfully cold, harsh season that is Canada’s winter). The club executive describes the club as a place where anyone who wants to ski and snowboard can come together, meet and make friends — within a totally non-competitive, recreational environment.

UTSSC runs weekly trips to local hill Mount St. Louis Moonstone. They also host a Quebec trip over reading week — this year to Mont Sainte Anne, which I’ve enjoyed more than once! Anyone interested in joining UTSSC should check out their Facebook group (if it motivates you: I found a rather unflattering photo myself conducting this very interview, yikes!) and/or their website for additional information and sign-up options.  I HIGHLY recommend seizing such an opportunity to anyone who hates winter (wait, isn’t that everyone?). I find solace in the fact that while it may be freezing… I CAN FINALLY GO SKIING AT LAST!

University of Toronto Dance Club


The main function of the University of Toronto Dance Club is to offer dance classes to U of T students and alumni. The club offers classes in a variety of styles, though the executive member I spoke to explained he personally got involved because he wanted to dance Salsa. Good choice, amigo. Latin dance makes me weak in the knees, it’s so, so impressive and, in my experience, a lot of fun. The club is a great place for anyone who wants to dance, try something new and meet some new people! My informant tells me lots of people find many friends within the community and greatly expand their social circles. The best part? Students pay only $40 for 10 hours of classes! Does this sound as awesome to you as it does to me?  Check out http://utdanceclub.com/ or join their Facebook group to start (or continue!) your dance education.

University of Toronto Jiu Jitsu Club


Confession: I’m President. Consolation confession: I did NOT interview myself.

The University of Toronto Jiu Jitsu Club is a Japanese Jiu Jitsu club (many, many styles of Jiu Jitsu exist, even within “Japanese”), which trains at Hart House. It is a registered club at U of T, but it’s also part of the Jitsu Canada and the Jitsu Foundation, which are national and international organizations respectively (friends all over the world — can’t beat that!). Someone who wants to get involved would either visit http://www.jitsucanada.com/ or the Facebook group and get in touch with one of the fantastic instructors. Why someone might want to try it? According to Arlo it’s good fitness, good self-defense and what’s most important for him is “it’s a lot of fun!” I swear, he said it. Direct quote, not a shameless plug.

Naturally, I’ll insert my two cents ever so subtly…

IT’S AWESOME. No, but seriously… for those who might want a little more info on what exactly Japanese Jiu Jitsu entails:

Japanese Jiu Jitsu dates back to the samurai. It’s a system of unarmed combat the samurai developed for use if ever they lost possession of their sword (this is my favourite thing to say). Our style involves striking, locking, throwing, groundwork and weapons defense. It’s very self-defense oriented and it’s rather comprehensive!

While I think they’re fabulous, these are just three of many athletic clubs on campus, so don’t be discouraged if they aren’t quite what you’re looking for. That’s okay! Check here for a full list of our campus clubs, which will allow you to browse by category and find your perfect fit!

Working the Resume

If you have ever had a job or wanted one chances are that you have probably written a resume or a cover letter at some point throughout your adolescence. I remember sitting in Careers and Civics class in grade ten learning about “Relevant Experience” and what fonts are most appropriate for your cover letter and thinking to myself that the class was pretty useless. I already had a job and my resume-writing skills had been good enough to land myself two jobs since I was old enough to have one! My 15-year-old brain had decided that I had mastered the art of getting a job, no need to pay attention… Ha. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My approach to writing cover letters had a simple and successful algorithm; “Hello, Sir/Ms, I am Madeline. I want to work for you because… You should want me to work for you because… Hope to hear from you.”

But when I started university, it came as a shock to me when three job opportunities came and went in the first two months of first year.

I needed a job and so using my old resume tricks, I was able to land a position at an espresso bar near campus. Sure, I had lots of food industry experience, heck I could make a double shot, no foam, skinny, extra hot latte with my eyes closed but being a barista for another year wasn’t what I wanted.

A GIF of a snobby girl saying "I like my pumpkin spice lattes extra hot!"

Ah, the joys of customer service.
– Taken from Giphy.com

What I wanted was a job at the university to expand my job experience, but it was becoming clear to me that my resume and cover letter were simply not cutting it.

This is how I landed myself at a resume workshop put on by the Career Centre on a Wednesday night of last year. There was a summer job being offered at my residence building that I was determined to get and I was not going to let my resume hold me back.

I cannot stress how helpful the workshop was. As a group, we were guided through the differences between a good and an excellent resume, how we could showcase our own skills and previous work experience, what made a work or volunteer experience relevant and how we could strategically write a cover letter that won’t be tossed to the side.

I learned that it’s okay to have a two page resume (but only two!), that it isn’t childish to include high-school experience if it is truly applicable to the job you’re applying for and that it is crucial to write an all-new cover letter for each position you’re interested in. We were given a lot of free resources on resume building and even examples to use as a template. It was probably one of the best uses of a Wednesday evening I can think of to date. Best part? I got the job. 

- Taken from Giphy.com

– Taken from Giphy.com

If you are struggling with writing a resume/cover letter or just need some guidance in updating your job-getting strategies the Career Centre is an amazing resource that you can take advantage of for free. 

If you don’t have the time to go to a workshop, the Career Centre website has a lot of great tips and resources that you can easily access, including a printable resume toolkit, online guides and pointers on how to land a job while in university and once you’re out in the workforce.


My work-study: How U of T can help you find a job while in school

Selfie of me drinking Starbucks

I spend an outrageous amount of my savings on coffee. Like the one Kevin made in a previous post, this is a coffee selfie. A coffie???

The financial struggle is something most students can relate to. Between tuition, textbooks, rent, utilities, FOOD, and oh yeah, social outings, our expenses really add up. What’s just as real is the job-finding struggle. No one wants to hire you because you have no experience and you have no experience because no one wants to hire you. It’s a vicious cycle that gets you so desperate for any job that you start applying to places like local Portuguese bakeries being fully aware that you can neither 1. bake nor 2. speak Portuguese.

I have a part-time job as a sales associate and let me tell you, all the Buzzfeed articles titled “36 Struggles of Retail Workers” are 100% accurate. Don’t get me wrong, working in sales and services teaches you many important social skills! Like how to smile while watching someone, miraculously within 10 seconds, destroy a table of shirts you spent 2 hours folding.

A lot of young adults think that working at the mall is our first and easiest way in. I am here to enlighten you in hopes that you also consider other viable options for employment. One of the best things about being at U of T is having many different opportunities for all sorts of fields and interests.

Logo on the CLN website.
A great resource is the Career Learning Network, which contains a forum for both casual and professional job offers. Whether you’re looking for internships, work studies, volunteering, or just a fun job, CLN is always posting new openings online.

Logo on the Co-Curricular Record website.
The U of T Co-Curricular Record website also has tons of interesting listings!

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, drop by the Career Centre for workshops or just helpful advice on where to start. As well, never underestimate the power of getting to know your profs and fellow students who may know of jobs that you could go for. Another tip: feel free to apply to as many as you want! You may get a lot of no’s, but all you need is that one yes!

Last year, I applied for work-study positions through the CLN website. I was a research assistant at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. I worked a decent amount of hours while still having time for school and learned a lot from the staff. Plus the things I did and learned were relevant to my longterm career goals so it was nice to be able to have that experience and also be getting that #cashmoneyflow. I even got to present a research poster and had my abstract published in a peer-reviewed journal! #startedfromthebottom #nowwehere 

A brick wall with a mural of big block letters and the words "You've Changed."

A mural done by local artist Jesse Harris. It is located on the wall facing the CAMH Queen St location and is a message of hope and positivity for patients living with addiction and/or mental health disorders.

Me standing next to a tri-fold board with my research poster tacked onto it.

ME! With my purple-themed and badly folded research poster at a conference that I was allowed to go to because of my work-study.

Besides financial and academic perks, I got to explore the neighbourhood of Toronto where I worked. The Trinity Bellwoods area is one of my favourite parts of the city, with free art exhibits, delicious food destinations, and a lovely park where I once so happened to meet Childish Gambino… but that’s a story for another time.

Towers, Dougland Coupland, MOCCA

A huge metal installation shaped like a toppled-over electrical tower.

The above images were taken at the (FREE) Douglas Coupland “everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, right across from CAMH. The first is a huge LEGO installation while the second is supposed to be an electrical tower that’s been toppled over.

What have your job experiences been like? Would you consider applying for jobs through U of T? Leave me a comment or share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

A Conversation with a Friend about Life

Last week I met a friend for coffee. It was the end of summer that I saw him last — O how that winged tyrant flies! — and it was lucky because he’s graduated and he’s very busy these days. It was nice to see him, and we had a really good conversation.

We said the usual how are you doing, what’s new? And then my friend said, “I’ve applied for an internship with the Canadian Embassy.”

“That’s great,” I said. “Did you get it?”

“I haven’t heard yet. They said they’d contact me within two weeks for an interview.”

“I’m sure you’ll get it.”

“But what if I don’t?” he said. “There are a lot of people applying for it.”

“Do you think you will get it?”

“Well, I hope so.”

“What did the application require?”

“Write an essay and submit a cover letter and my transcripts.”

“Did you do all that?”


“Was your essay good? Did your cover letter say all that you wanted it to?”

“As much as it could.”

“And your grades are fine, right?”

“They’re okay. Yeah, they’re good.”

“So you did everything that you had to do, right?”


“Okay, then what’s the worry?”

Because!” he said. “Everyone will have done all that stuff, and there are like two positions.”

“But you did all that stuff,” I said.

“Yeah, I told you.”

“Okay,” and I went and refilled my coffee.

When I returned, my friend said. “What? So I’m just supposed to forget about it and leave it up to the Gods?”

I laughed. “Essentially.”

“But what if I don’t get it?”

“That’s out of our control at this point.”

“But that sucks,” he said.

I agreed. “But unfortunately, it’s the truth.”

Rather than allow this revelation to dampen our spirits, we started talking about the idea of diligence and determination, and asked the question: Do these qualities actually pay off in the end?

It’s something my friend is experiencing, and many of us, too, as we reach the end of our career at U of T. Will all of my hard work lead to a satisfying career? The conclusion my friend and I settled on (I’m sure we could have conversed longer and more inquisitively) is that, at some point along the road, the decision of whether we become doctors, lawyers, professors, authors, sports-stars, or even astronauts, will be out of our control. And what is most important is that we pursue our goals up to that point.

My friend did all that he could for his application. I’ve known him since first year, and it was never his plan to work at the Canadian Embassy. But once the opportunity arose, he applied himself to the utmost of his ability, rallying the full breadth of his university experience and education, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

He did everything he could, and then surrendered to Chance. It’s funny that we recognize success only when its says, “You passed!” or “You’re hired!” or “Welcome aboard!” We fail to acknowledge that every day you go to class, by your own will, out of desire, or a sense of responsibility, is a triumph of our university education. Every time you commit yourself to learning, regardless of grades, is a success of your character and your development as a human being.

It sucks that four years at university doesn’t secure us a dream job. But being a university student means that we have the unparalleled opportunity to prepare and apply ourselves with every ounce of interest, intelligence, honesty, and strength that we possess to gain that desired career, before we throw our lives back into the hands of Chance.

My friend got an interview. I’m looking forward to seeing him again. Maybe we’ll have another great conversation.


‘Til then, stay diamond, U of T!

– Stephen.

Blue Sky

Last week, I talked about all of the LinkedIn knowledge that was handed to me from the Career Centre and a LinkedIn Recruiter, Perry Monaco. He mentioned something throughout the discussion that I found especially interesting, and it’s kind of stuck with me since. Perry gave some great advice, known as the “blue sky” concept. Be warned, it sounds simple, but I found it a challenge to do without having inhibitions or expectations interrupt the process. In fact, it took a few tries before I was able to clear my anxieties, which, let me assure you, as a particularly obsessive compulsive detail oriented individual, is no easy feat.

The first step is sitting down and thinking over, in some serious detail, what you would see as the ultimate kind of career, something you’d like to see yourself doing. And the importance (and reason) it’s called the blue-sky approach is because you’re not to set any limits. Of course, because it is November/the month of punishment before holiday cheer/everyday is a dark cloud day, I thought at first it was a little too dreamy. But the more Perry explained, the more it made sense. Ultimately, you’re setting goals for yourself, and creating an internal plan.

In reality, many recruiters and interviewers do actually ask this question, and I think it’s an even more important to ask as a student.  If someone were to ask me where I saw myself in the next five years, I must admit, my first thought would be “well, hopefully drinking less coffee…” which is not exactly the ideal blue sky picture. I mentioned the difficulty I had in picturing my own blue sky, much of which is undoubtedly linked to the fear of failure. Which brings me to this video, which I noticed floating around Facebook this past week:


Maybe it was the tone, maybe it was the music or maybe, just maybe it was the pictures. Either way, the video almost immediately made me think of the blue-sky concept. The narrator, Alan Watts, seemingly convinces you to lift all boundaries. In fact, it’s mostly the boundary, the one that in many ways, becomes our main source of $tress. Until I realized I was completely guilty of doing this, I mean it’s been pretty evident that it still remains a concern. But should it? Should money dictate what you want to do? I mean, for a long time I felt like unless I was planning on renewing my citizenship to the Lost City of Atlantic, it definitely needed to be considered. But I’m starting to wonder where I draw the fine line.

How much of a role does money play in figuring out what you’d like to do, or where you see yourself?


Working for the Weekend: Tips on Finding a Job on Campus

You might wake up every morning and feel like this. (I know the feeling, guys, believe me, I’ve had a nasty cold all week and even getting out of bed has been a struggle.) But even still, the reality is that every fall a bunch of us students look for part-time jobs to help pay for our expenses.

(Sorry, I couldn’t help but post this video. This song is fantastic.) Anyway, working during the school year can be achieved without bringing down your GPA. I’ve seen it done and done well. But I’ve also seen people completely break-down under the pressure of trying to manage too many things at once! It’s all about finding balance and completely mastering the art of prioritizing and time management. If you find the right job and learn to organize like crazy, working and studying is totally doable. And, in the process, you not only get some money in the bank but you get some real-life job skills to put on your resume and you’ll actually have banked up a few employers who can serve as references after graduation.

But of course, with the wrong job — the one that is too time-consuming; the one that has the nightmare boss; the one that gives you stress dreams where you wake up screaming and throw the covers off of yourself like they’re trying to steal your wallet or something — well, with those jobs, the work/study balance can be precarious.

I definitely endorse working and studying at the same time. I did it last year, and I think that it gives you a healthy dose of perspective on how you can make whatever you’re studying applicable to the real world. But the trick is to avoid those nightmare jobs whenever possible.

Working on campus is one of the best bets to avoid bosses like this. As a general rule, most on-campus employers understand that you’re a student, and they’ll be more likely to give you some leeway if, for instance, you’re in the middle of the mid-term schedule from hell.You’ll physically be on campus at work, so it’s much easier to go straight from a shift at work to the library, and working behind the scenes of your regular student experience helps you learn more about the university and how to take advantage of all of the opportunities offered.

A few of my good friends in the Art History program work at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, getting some curatorial and gallery experience while earning some cash, and use the experience they have there to relate it to their work at the Fine Arts Student Union and the Hart House Art Committee.  Another friend did a Work-Study Position in her college’s student life office, which helped her get enough know-how and experience to secure her summer position and score her a cool community-service placement in the fall. The cool thing is that working on campus doesn’t have to just be that thing you have to do so that you can afford your morning coffee. If you do your research and figure out where you want to work and what you want to do, it can be a stepping stone that will lead you to your dream job. (I mean, I don’t want to over-sell it. Maybe it won’t lead you to your “dream job” but it can lead to other cool opportunities which leads to other cool opportunities.)

Ok, so have I sold you on this yet? If I have, be prepared to start your job search immediately! I know that September still feels like it’s a long way off, but in the job hunt you have to start early! a great place to start your search is at the Career Centre. Click the “Student” tab and click on “Job Search.” (You’ll have to either register or log in to get to this next part.) From here, you can do an ‘Advanced’ search and only see the jobs on campus. I just did a quick search, and currently there’s not too many positions listed. But don’t despair! Not all jobs end up getting posted. Some of the major employers on campus are the libraries at U of T, the U of T Bookstore, The Faculty of Physical Education & Health, and Hart House. Check on their individual websites often to see if any new positions have been posted. Also, consider networking with your professors and course unions to hear about any research assistant positions as they become available!

The Work-Study program is provided through the Career Centre, for students who are eligible for financial aid. (And a little bird told me that the Office of Student Life will be posting Work-Study positions soon!) Keep in mind that you don’t have to necessarily qualify for OSAP! You just need to demonstrate financial need to the satisfaction of the office of Admissions and Awards.

The Career Centre also offers a bunch of services to help you GET the job, once you’ve found the job that you want. Check out their resume drop-in clinic and practice interviews to help get the confidence you need to nab the job.

Good luck!

Goodbyes, hellos, and an invitation: UpbeaT makes its seasonal shift

Hello everyone: Chris Garbutt here, manager of the UpbeaT project at Student Life. You’ve probably read all the goodbye posts from this year’s bloggers. It’s been a great year at UpbeaT. Week after week, our bloggers told you about the amazing things they’ve done on campus, and some of the involved, engaged people who are also doing amazing things at U of T. Thanks to Cynthia, Danielle, Dara, Lori and Shannon for all your hard work!

Now that we’re into a new session, I hope you’ll welcome Emily, our new summer communications intern at Student Life. She’ll be your UpbeaT blogger until the end of the summer, and will pick up where the regular UpbeaT team left off.

Work for UpbeaT!

lifeatuoft is a great blog to work for, and we’re now looking for curious, creative and committed new bloggers for the 2011-2012 school year. Apply for any of these positions:

lifeatuoft Writer: Proven writer, either in print or online.

lifeatuoft Multimedia Blogger: You love to tell visual stories!

Physical Activity Blogger: Create posts about physical activity and healthy living!

Writer/Videoblogger (International): Find creative ways to capture and convey the range of international experiences and opportunities available through U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science.

Deadline for these positions is May 31 or June 1.

Thanks to all our readers, and enjoy your summer. Keep reading!